Tennessee Williams started off The Glass Menagerie from his short story called
Portrait of a Girl in Glass which he then developed into a screenplay named
The Gentleman Caller and eventually adapted the screenplay for the first stage production
in Chicago (1944) with the title The Glass Menagerie.
For reading the play in class I would recommend:
The Glass Menagerie
Summary of the play:
The Glass Menagerie is a play which presnts the narrator-hero called Tom, who breaks away from his
domineering mother Amanda and his shy, introverted sister Laura after failing to find a suitable
husband for her (hence Gentleman Caller).
Tom works as a clerk in a shoe warehaouse by day
and by night he writes poetry. He feels responsible for his family, after his father deserted them.
Amanda lives in her memories of a genteel South, of gentleman callers and elegant parties, but cannot
cope with the present harsh reality of life. She is very much concerned about her crippled
daughter Laura, who has given up fight with real life and escapes into a dreamworld of little glass animals;
her most favourite one is a crystal unicorn.
As her mother sees no future for her, she gives Tom the task to find an eligible bachelor
for Laura and invite him to dinner. Unwilling to do so first, Tom brings home a gentleman caller who is
a fellow employee at the shoe warehouse, where he works. He happens to be Laura's secret idol from high school
and his name is Jim O'Connor. Whe Jim comes to dinner, Laura behaves strangely and reservedly first,
but later starts chatting to him confidently. While dancing with Laura, he unintentionally bumps
against the table and the crystal unicorn falls and breaks apart. Jim tries to comfort Laura by
giving her a kiss and she seems to emerge from her dreamworld. But then Jim clumsily reveals to her
that he is engaged and is to be married soon. Thereupon Laura places the broken unicorn in Jim's
hand as a symbol of their broken relationship. Laura withdraws into her private world for good and Tom
leaves the house after being reproached by his mother for his stupidity to bring Jim home.
Tom escapes as his father did a long time ago.
Recommendable notes on The Glass Menagerie can be found in York Notes:
Other plays by T. Williams worthwhile reading in class are:
A Streetcar Named Desire and
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof